What is AIGA’s mandate for 2014?

As AIGA approaches its centennial in 2014, the membership, leadership and staff have taken a thoughtful and searching look at the organization's activities, positioning and the design profession's needs, and have adopted a bold new course for meeting its mission: to advance designing as a professional craft, strategic tool and vital cultural force.

At this year's leadership retreat, held earlier this month in Portland, Oregon, volunteer board members from more than 60 AIGA chapters nationwide met to exchange ideas and success stories, and to review and discuss the results of six months' worth of research to determine AIGA's future. The three-day event culminated with a unanimous and enthusiastic endorsement of a new “mandate” for AIGA—in effect, a roadmap for the organization's progression over the next five years (and beyond) that will support the profession's aspirations for relevance, leadership and opportunity.

Between now and 2014, AIGA will plan and budget based on the following elements of the mandate, both at the local and the national level. Many of the actions to achieve these goals are already underway and will become evident to members over the next 18 months:

  • AIGA will provide ample opportunities for members to engage in social networking activities, to provide content and make connections. Opportunities will be both online and in person; the AIGA experience will evolve more laterally than from the top down.
  • Conferences will shift to more regional and local gatherings; more resources will be invested in the development and distribution of digital audio and video programming. The goal will be to make more content available on the website, with particular attention paid to where the line is drawn for access by nonmembers.
  • AIGA will focus on identifying new sources of non-dues revenue, drawing a much clearer line between member and nonmember access to web content. A shift towards accepting “tasteful” advertising on the website will occur; and the online store will become more robust in order to offer chapter- and member-designed products for sale to designers and the public.
  • AIGA will build a strong core of programs for professional development, particularly for mid-career designers and in developing leadership skills.
  • AIGA will shift to distributing content primarily in digital form, for reasons of sustainability, economics and reach, although members will continue to receive a limited number of signature print pieces each year.
  • AIGA will offer daily online examples of design excellence, with opportunities for member input as well as expert jury opinion. Design excellence will be embodied in criteria of aesthetics, creation of value for clients and social responsibility.
  • AIGA will find better and easier ways for designers to assume a role in the broader business, social and cultural environments, both in the United States and abroad. AIGA will continue to develop collaborative relationships with organizations outside the design field, to expand appreciation of the value of design and to seek a leadership position for its members in international design forums and ventures for social change.

This is an exciting point in AIGA's history. These changes will create a vigorous presence for AIGA in supporting the profession, with new vitality, currency and impact. Although it signals a change in some traditional activities, many of which are valued by long-time members, it will also encourage greater engagement by emerging designers, generate new opportunities for community and reinforce the profession's ability to enhance its own future as a profession.

About the Author: Richard Grefé is the director emeritus of AIGA, the professional association for design, the oldest and largest professional association of designers in the United States representing the interests of 27,000 designers working in a variety of communication media and dimensions, ranging from type and book designers to new media and experience designers. AIGA, o ver twenty years under Ric’s aegis, has become a leading advocate for the value of designing, as a way of thinking and as a means of creating strategic value for business, the civic realm and social change. Currently he is teaching “Human-centered designn for social change” at Wesleyan University. Ric earned a BA from Dartmouth College in economics, worked in intelligence in Asia, reported from the Bronx County Courthouse for AP, wrote for Time magazine on business and the economy and then earned an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business. Following an early career in urban design and public policy consulting, Ric managed the association responsible for strategic planning and legislative advocacy for public television and led a think tank on the future of public television and radio in Washington.